Winter Olympics 2014: Shaun White pulls out of slopestyle event over safety fears to boost GB hopes

The American will concentrate only on the halfpipe

Two British snowboarders will tomorrow morning be taking part in the first event of the Winter Olympics, the slopestyle, despite concerns mounting over the safety of the course.

Billy Morgan and Jamie Nicholls will compete on the Rosa Khutor slopes a day after the United States’ Shaun White, the world’s most famous snowboarder, withdrew from the event citing injury fears.

“With the practice runs I’ve taken, even after course modifications and watching fellow athletes get hurt, the potential risk of injury is t too much for me to gamble my other Olympics goals on,” White said.

The course has already claimed the pre-Games favourite for the slopestyle when Norway’s Torstein Horgmo broke his ankle earlier in the week. Two female snowboarders, a Slovene and a Finn, have also been injured.

Morgan, a 24-year-old from Southampton, and Nicholls, four years younger and from Bradford, are the first of seven Britons in action on Thursday in a series of heats ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony. Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller follow the men on to the slopes in the women’s slopestyle qualifying – both are expected to make the top 22 and so reach the weekend’s finals – while Morgan, should he qualify, offers the first prospect of a British medal on Saturday morning. He finished fourth in last year’s world championships and made the podium in this season’s World Cup.

White hurt his left wrist on Wednesday, prompting his withdrawal in order to focus on the half-pipe, in which he is defending champion.

“With the practice runs I have taken, even after course modifications and watching fellow athletes get hurt, the potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympics goals on,” said White, who like Horgmo was expected to contend for the gold on Saturday.

“There are definitely concerns about the course. It’s been interesting to see how it’s developed and changed over the past couple of days. The big question is, if it will continue to change? Because every day, they have riders meetings and they give feedback. Sometimes there’s changes, sometimes there’s not.”

Another leading snowboarder, the Canadian Mark McMorris, described the jumps on the course as “kind of obnoxiously tall”. Morgan, though, enjoyed his first taste. “It’s really good,” he said. “The jumps are perfect.”
 

Shaun White pictured practicing in Sochi Shaun White pictured practicing in Sochi
 

Nicholls fell during practice but was not seriously injured despite landing on his head after over-reaching a jump. Competitors are marked on the tricks and jumps they perform down the course.

Their daredevil stunts have made snowboarders compulsive viewing for a new generation of thrill seekers wanting to push the boundaries of the Olympics.

When everything goes right and they land safely, there are high-fives and fist-pumps all around as the crowds cheer and yell for more.

But when it goes wrong, it can go badly wrong. Behind all the bravado and cockiness is the chilling realisation that snowboarders risk life and limb every time they hurl themselves down the mountain.

In 2009, Kevin Pearce, one of White’s great rivals, was critically injured when he slammed his head on the ice while training in Utah. He spent six days in a coma and months recovering from his brain injuries but was lucky to live.

In January 2012, Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, a four-times gold medallist at the X-Games, died from injuries she suffered when she hit her head in a fall while training in Utah.

Matt Parr will on Thursday be the first man in action in the Iceberg Skating Palace when he leads Britain’s figure skaters into the team competition in the men’s short programme. Britain were surprise qualifiers, 10th of the 10 countries who are competing, and it meant an unexpected call-up for Parr, whose only event this is. His Games are likely to be over before they officially begin, although the women’s part of the team event is not wrapped up until the weekend.

“This is possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience – realistically it could be the only time I ever get to go to an Olympic Games,” said Parr. And what about the rest of the Games? “I will take it in, see as much as possible and be there to support Team GB in whatever way I am needed.”

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering